West Wallsend SFC v South Cardiff FC
Johnston Park, West Wallsend, Saturday 2pm
An action-packed HIT106.9 Northern League One campaign will come to an exciting conclusion this Saturday when West Wallsend host South Cardiff in a highly-anticipated grand final battle at Johnston Park.
Between the Gunners kicking off the season on 24 February with a dominant 5-0 win against Thornton and them walking out onto the field for the decider this weekend, 218 days will have passed.
The 2023 season has been full of memorable moments for the nine clubs involved in the competition and for either West Wallsend or South Cardiff, there is one more in store on Saturday.
The two grand finalists are heading into the big dance as the in form teams of the competition.
South Cardiff have been firing on all cylinders since the finals series began earlier this month, eliminating three higher-ranked teams across consecutive weekends.
The Gunners went into the knockout games having just scraped into fifth place on goal difference following a win and two losses in their final three regular-season games but they have since sent fourth-placed Kahibah, third-placed Singleton and premiers Toronto Awaba all packing.
West Wallsend have been dominant for a much longer period. Since mid-May, they have won 14 of their 16 matches and they finished second to the premiers Toronto Awaba on the ladder.
Westy are on a seven-game winning streak, including finals victories against Singleton and Toronto in weeks one and two to go straight through to their first grand final since they were beaten by Belmont Swansea in 2018.
The Bluebells’ coach Bailey Cox said his men enjoyed last weekend off and are feeling refreshed heading into the decider, which they are excited to play in on Saturday.
“We’re massively pumped. It’s unreal. We’ve been striving for this all year,” Cox said.
“Training this week has been good, and having the weekend off last week was really good. We let it all soak in, what we’ve actually achieved. There are huge vibes around Westy at the moment.
“We’ve achieved what we set out to do at the start of the year; getting to the grand final was the goal for us. I knew that with the team we had, we had a fair chance of doing it. We just had to make sure we started gelling and clicking together, and after a couple of weeks, we got there.
“I’m very happy with the way we’ve come home. Our defence, especially, has been unreal. We haven’t conceded many goals.
“We are playing decent football and we’ve shown we can get gritty too. There’s been a lot of games where we’ve scored late. Fitness has definitely been a key for us; we’ve been running over teams at the end of games.”
Cox, who is a first-year coach in the top grade, said it had been great to see the more experienced players in the team like Kane Goodchild, Matt Paul and skipper Bryson Cox guide the team through grand final week, which he thought had helped settle the nerves within the playing group.
Everyone at West Wallsend is now expecting a tough game from the Gunners on Saturday.
“At the moment, they’re the hottest team going,” Cox said.
“You just have to look at their run of form. They’ve knocked off three top-four sides. They’ll be flying.
“Even though they finished fifth, we definitely won’t be taking them lightly. If anything, they could probably think they’re the favourites going into the weekend with the run they’ve had. They beat Toronto 3-1 in 90 minutes and it took us 120 minutes to beat them 2-1.
“I think they’ve scored the most goals against us of any team in the comp. It’s going to be a battle. But I’m hoping with the way that we play, and our game plan, we can show up and get the job done.
South Cardiff’s coach Perry Mellon said that his club were thrilled to be a part of the grand final day, which not many people outside of the club expected to happen.
The last time the Gunners played in a league grand final was back in the NBN State League in 2011 when they drew 2-2 after 90 minutes and 4-4 after 120 minutes with Broadmeadow Magic but lost 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
It’s been a long 12 years since then for South Cardiff, and they almost didn’t even make the finals this year, but they managed to scrape into fifth on goal difference.
They are now firing at the right time of the year and their coach could not be any prouder.
“We are really excited. Everyone is stoked with the results we’ve had and the position that we’re in,” Mellon said.
“Grand finals don’t come around very often. For us as a club, we’ve had a few lean years. Haven’t been in a GF since 2011, so that’s 12 years, which is a long time. Everyone is just buzzing.
“To our boys’ credit, we’ve gone above and beyond what everyone thought we were capable of. We’ve defied expectations for sure.
“But the hardest part of a grand final is actually getting there. We’re here now, and I’m a firm believer that we have a performance in us. But there’s no pressure on us and we’ve got nothing to lose. We came fifth on goal difference, and just to be there is a crazy achievement. Westy have got the pressure on them. It’s a home grand final for them and they’re expected to win.
“If we go out and put in a good performance, well, what will be will be.”
Mellon said he thought that the Gunners’ grand final opponents were a quality team and deserved to be in the big dance.
“Westy are a good team with some experienced players,” Mellon said.
“I said a few weeks ago, I thought they were favourites to take it out when we got to the finals.
“They’ve probably been the form team of the comp from the second round of the season onwards.”
Westy and Southy have met three times during the 2023 campaign, one of which was in the 27th and final round of the regular season when the Bluebells downed the Gunners 4-1.
Each team’s coach declared that their sides would be at full strength for their fourth and final battle this Saturday. Another classic, close encounter is expected when the two sides challenge for the championship at one of the region’s most storied grounds at Johnston Park.
Hit106.9 Northern League One Grand Finals Match Day Information
WHEN: Saturday 30 September
WHERE: Johnston Park, West Wallsend
KICK-OFF TIMES: First Grade 2pm, Reserve Grade 11am
Champions will be decided by extra time and penalty kicks in the event of a draw.
GATES OPEN: 10am
PARKING: Supporters are advised to arrive early and leave plenty of time to enter the venue due to no parking available inside Johnston Park and with a large crowd expected.
TICKETS: $10 adults, $5 concession, FREE 16-years and under. Tickets will be available at the gate only with contactless payment preferred. Limited change will available, with correct cash appreciated.
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